WASHINGTON — Ocean City, Maryland, is home to the largest billfish tournament in the world — the White Marlin Open. But the tournament, held the second week of August, is locked in controversy over whether the winner fairly caught the 76-pound white marlin that he brought in.
Nearly $3 million in prize money is hanging in the balance.
Tournament officials have gone to Worcester County Circuit Court to deny Phillip Heasley of Naples, Florida, the top prize of $2,818,662.
While Heasley hauled in the tournament’s only qualifying white marlin, others won prize money for catches that included blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, shark and dolphin. Some of those winners are named in the court case and stand to split the top prize if the court agrees with tournament officials.
Heasley claimed he caught his fish Aug. 9. But under tournament rules, any angler who wins more than $50,000 in prize money must pass a polygraph exam.
Tournament officials said in court documents filed Friday that Heasley was administered two polygraph exams by two different examiners and failed them both.
Some of the questions at issue include: “Did you have any lines in the water before 8:30 a.m. on 8/9/16,” and “Did the angler have any assistance reeling in the fish on 8/9/16.”
Polygraph exams were also administered to Heasley’s ship captain and shipmates. The tournament officials have told the court “not one person on defendant Heasley’s vessel, ‘Kallianassa,’ passed a polygraph exam.”